Review: Gaia by JFlames

JFlames - Gaia

This month I am delighted to have been handed the privilege of reviewing the new album by my friend, fellow Fresh On The Net moderator and highly regarded artist, writer and producer JFlames.

I first got introduced to the talents (well, some of his talents) of JFlames when I was doing some work in a studio with his brother, the equally well regarded Ruinz Ason who played me his amazing 2017 album Space: The Journey Home According To Mr Nobody, which JFlames had produced. And trust me when I tell you that such quality of production is what I would expect to hear on a big budget major label release. These brothers have talent, as rappers, singers, writers and producers. That is helped also by their open-minded approach to music from across the widest spectrum and their ability to respect and subsume influences so that they can be used for fresh original content. I later had the pleasure of doing some radio promo first for Ruinz Ason and later for an EP they released as a duo.

JFlames’s latest set is entitled Gaia and, for anyone expecting an album of pure Brit Hop and Grime, there will be plenty of surprises in store. That is clear from the outset when the album opens with a melancholy low register cover of Rose Royce’s classic Abandoned (Love Don’t Live Here Anymore). My initial expectation was that a rap would appear midway into the song. I was wrong! Deptford Phil Collins by contrast is 100% Grime with minimal backdrop, single notes over a busy programmed beat leaving plenty of space for the voices.

His brother Ruinz Ason joins JF for Vulcan Death Grip. Again the vibe is sparse Grime with different effects on the vocals and a more ethereal feel with the bendy chord that blows like eerie wind low down in the mix. Speak Up kicks off with bell-like synth, female voice sample, background chats and a chord sequence that rises and falls in semi-tones lending it an almost Eastern bent although the lyrics are pure London Council Estate. Heart Games introduces jazz-tinged and open chords while JF again demonstrates his singing ability, in similarly melancholy mood to the opener.

Warm futuristic synth chords introduce Toshiba, in which we hear soulful vocal harmony and a really exquisite R’n’B feel with trebly hats, deep bass drum, cool beat and increasingly intricate and spine-tingling vocal harmonies. This track sounds to me like a future single (albeit a clean edit!). Sayonara also has radio potential but for very different reasons, offering another minimalist Grime piece, adorned with triplet time rap and nice breakz. I’m not sure though what radio programmers would make of the repeated line ‘Blow up the beat like Osama’!

More warm phasey synth chords introduce Sails with J again in fine singing voice and agreeably bassy drum track driving things along. Half Time is faster and funkier, a lively rap with more background chants, loud beat and plenty of timbres coming in and out of the mix. The football analogies are a joy. Then we have Mean While in Japan kicking off with suitably oriental plucked strings before another loud beat and rapid-fire rap takes over.

Eddie Guerro sees Ruinz Ason back again alongside the intriguingly named 8tred da Gr8. More triple time rapping and heavy bass drum beat plus we have reference to the brothers’ impressive Music 4 Weirdos label. The contrast of vocal timbres, electronic sounds and ambient noises works like a dream. Pure energy throughout. Building meanwhile begins like the theme to a BBC Childrens’ programme but quickly gives way to more tough beats, striking samples and stream-of-consciousness rapped lyrics. Mind-spinning electronic bendiness opens Player 2 with its gaming references, deep electronic pitches (still in bendy mode) and a deeper register rap. It has both an unsettling and yet highly lyrical feel.

Shell has more background chants and a musical backdrop that mixes deep buzz synth, sweet electric piano chords and more autobiographical stream of consciousness by way of a rap that is distinctly musical. The line ‘This one’s gonna get mental/Man gets steamed like a lentil’ deserves to be repeated and is. There is always an element of sardonic humour lurking behind the starker warnings shots in JFlames’s lyrical armoury.

So it all concludes with Water Dance, four to the floor kick drum, funk-infused synth chords and low register sung vocals. This is a monster final track that is almost House and would be were it not for the distinctly urban feel of the drum programme and the slightly slower pace. It is a big track full of big gesture too and a genuinely uplifting way to round off 15 tracks that offer such a diversity of flavas and influences. All in all, a highly accomplished and refreshing album that deserves to get some serious airplay. Let’s hope that is what ensues.

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Neil March

Neil March is a Composer & Artist with a PhD and Masters in music composition from Goldsmiths University, who has pursued careers in the contemporary classical and pop worlds, and has been supported by BBC Introducing, for whom he performed with his live ensemble The Music of Sound at Latitude in 2017. Read more.

4 Comments

  1. JFlames

    Much appreciated Neill and a great review if Indo say so myself.

  2. You’re very welcome and thanks both for your kind comments and for giving me the album to review. 🙂

  3. Great review. I’d love to get a copy of the album.

  4. Thanks Chris. That’s very kind. It’s certainly a cool album. 🙂

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